Google announced a major search algorithm improvement today “that impacts roughly 35 percent of searches and better determines when to give you more up-to-date relevant results for these varying degrees of freshness”.
The examples of the types of searches that will now result in more relevant results were:
Occupy Oakland- a news event
Other reoccurring events such as the Presidential Election, an NFL score, or the recent Exxon earnings, and
Frequent updates- but they didn’t really give an example to put this into context.
The newest update seems to be a new way for Google to weed through the millions of websites on the overpopulated world wide web and to only display “relevant” results.
So, the question (as always) when it comes to SEO is- which sites will they decide to display when some of these searches actually occur?
What can you do better to actually come up higher for some of these searches?
Keep in mind that we’re not talking about keyword searches for overly-popular phrases like “New York accident lawyer” or “California personal injury lawyer”. We’re talking about searches for time-sensitive events and occurrences which, in some instances, you want to rank for.
*Note- anyone who has worked with me in the past knows my stance on personal injury lawyers posting accident news items which they had nothing to do with on their websites and/or blogs. And if you haven’t worked with me in the past then I’ll tell you now- to each his or her own, and if you think that an accident victim or someone who saw the accident on their way to work that morning that is searching for the name or event on Google might hire you when they come to your site, than keep doing what you’re doing. But from my experience- while the “it’s just another visit which increases awareness of my brand” mentality may hold true, the “any press is good press” mentality may not and you probably already know that after reading the e-mails and comments from the victims and their families.
Okay, I just wanted to get that out of the way because when I think about events that personal injury lawyers would want to rank for, that’s usually what comes to mind.
Back to the main question… how will Google determine what websites actually come up in the top results for some of these searches?
Well, as always, building authority is one way. The more links that you have from other (quality and relevant) websites that point to the page on your site for that event, especially if the anchor text of those links include the same keywords that are being searched for, than the better chance you’ll have.
Content, of course, is also important. Are those keywords actually mentioned in the content, and is there a certain keyword density?
And of course the normal on-page attributes- page titles, meta descriptions, keyword-friendly URL’s, internal link structure, alt image tags, load times…you probably know all of the tricks by now.
But in addition to the traditional on-page attributes that webmasters and SEO’ers usually focus on is a markup code called Schema which Google, Bing, and Yahoo! announced in June of this year.
Schema allows webmasters and developers to embed these code snippets on websites that are relevant to certain types, such as:
Audio, Video, Movies, etc.
Events (football scores, conferences, concerts)
Organizations (including members of those organizations)
People- writers, musicians, doctors, lawyers
Places- local businesses, restaurants, intersections, hospitals, court houses, law firms
Products and offers (mainly for e-commerce… unless you’re one of those creative lawyers out there that offers free reports)
Reviews (aka testimonials)
Websites that (IN ADDITION to optimizing their websites, building links, posting relevant content, etc.) incorporate applicable schema code snippets in the appropriate places are a lot more likely to be found for these types of searches than those that don’t.
Google’s main priority, as always, is to combat spam and stay a step ahead of those who take short-cuts to obtain better rankings.
It’s 2011 and a lot easier (now that WordPress and cheap shared hosting providers are so popular) for a spammer to:
Setup multiple websites and blogs
Scrape some content from other websites
Implement a script that optimizes all of it’s pages for keywords,
Use a piece of software that builds thousands of links to each site from crappy, non-relevant websites
and all of a sudden a month later the only thing they’re missing is the domain age factor (unless they bought the domain at an auction in which case they might have that too).
So Schema is pretty much a way to make us legit SEO’ers (no, that isn’t an oxymoron despite public opinion) work harder to stay ahead of your competitors SEO’ers (who are probably taking the easy way out and doing everything via automated software and scripts) by spending time implementing these Schema snippets.
People say that Matt Cutts hates SEO’ers? Nope, he just hates the ones that aren’t legit and take shortcuts- the ones who know what we’re doing just end up with more on our plate with each Google update.
Oh, and I’m sure you’ve already picked up on this, but, Schema- maybe good for your firm’s Google Places rankings? Yeah, probably.
Also, be sure to check out a related video that I filmed a few weeks ago explaining why, with the emergence of Google Places for geo-specific terms, it’s now better to have one website versus multiple micro-sites.
One SEO/website strategy question that I always have a tough time answering, especially for clients in the super-competitive legal field where every lawyer and firm seems to have 10 of their own blogs and/or websites, is:
Should I use my current site to focus on that keyword/area/practice area, or should I launch a new website?
If you’re a lawyer or you’ve done legal SEO in the past, the websites that rank well for the keyword or keyword phrase that you’re trying to rank for probably:
Have been around for a lot longer and have had SEO performed on it since day 1,
Are part of a collection of other websites that the particular lawyer or firm has developed over time, all of which linking to and from each other, or
all of the above.
The quality and quantity of inbound links that a website has is still a very big part of Google’s algorithm.
It’s very rare for a website to rank well for a semi-competitive keyword on Google and not have more or better inbound links than the websites below it, and when I say inbound links I’m also going to include in this term the number of other websites that the business’ brick-and-mortar factors (address, phone number, etc.) are included on now that these factors are so important to Google Places and now that Google Places plays a larger part in the organic search results for almost all local businesses.
In my opinion- for websites which want to rank well for keywords that include geo-specific search terms, such as
Chicago personal injury lawyer
Seattle pizza delivery
an inbound link is no longer just a hyperlink to the website, but the Google Places citation source factors such as address and phone number can also count towards “link juice” even if there isn’t an actual hyperlink on that other website. Confusing, I know.
But back to the main dilemma…debate…. debacle… whatever you want to call it.
To rank well for a specific keyword, should you continue to post content and spend time optimizing the website that you currently have, or should you spend some extra time and money to launch a new website or blog which can possibly not only rank well for that keyword, but also generate additional traffic and leads in the process?
Pro’s for launching a new website:
1) Keyword-friendly URL’s- By implementing the keyword or keyword phrase(s) that you want to rank for into the domain of the new website, it’s possible that you’ve increased the chances that this website will rank well based on Google’s algorithm.
Also, this new website is more likely to include those keywords and keyword phrases more often in it’s page titles, content, etc. now that it’s the main focus of the website, versus your main website where sometimes you have to struggle to find pages where you can implement those keywords.
2) Capturing a Niche– Depending on your business, it’s possible (now that you’ve launched a new website specific to that particular product or service) that this website helps to establish your business or brand as the expert in that particular field, versus a more broad topic which doesn’t capture a particular niche.
For example, would a visitor more likely convert on:
a Washington, DC personal injury firm website that handles multiple practice areas
a website produced by a Washington, DC personal injury firm that only talks about auto accident cases?
It can be debated that the practice-area specific website or blog might convert at a higher rate than a larger, more broad firm site, but there are also some cons to this (see below).
3) Internal Resources>External Resources- Internal resources (additional websites that your company has created) that you now have control over offer additional benefits versus websites that may rank well that you need to pay to get listed on.
In the legal field, plenty of people have spent a countless amount of time and money to setup directory sites to either
a) rank well for a number of legal keywords throughout the country in order to attempt to charge the lawyers to be listed, or
b) in some instances where actual lawyers are involved in the ownership of these sites, leads will be sold to other lawyers based on the location and practice area of that potential client.
Business model aside, the links that are coming from these websites are usually pretty valuable. But why would you want to pay to be listed on a website when you can build your own site or blog, spend a year or two building up it’s authority, and eventually that website will
a) generate it’s own leads for the lawyer/firm, and
b) provide valuable links to the main site which will improve it’s search engine rankings?
Not so fast.
Con’s For Launching a New Website
I’m going to try to correlate the order which the cons are listed with the matching pro as much as possible.
1) Exact Match Domains Ain’t What They Used To Be– An exact match domain (referred to in the pro’s as Keyword Friendly URL) is one that includes keywords in order to rank well on Google and other search engines. Google knows that it’s fairly easy these days to get a keyword-friendly domain name and launch a WordPress blog on it within a matter of minutes. So as their algorithm continues to evolve, keyword-friendly domain names will likely continue to fall in terms of overall ranking factors.
However, there should still be a difference, in my opinion, between exact match domains and keyword-friendly URL’s because I believe that Google will continue to consider optimized page URL’s (versus keyword-stuffed root domains aka exact match domains) as a primary ranking factor, mainly for usability and standardization reasons.
2) Usability Issues- As it states in the pro’s section- yes, it’s possible that an additional website can establish your company or firm as an expert in that particular topic. But let’s say that you’re that Washington, DC firm that we mentioned earlier, and you put together a website that only talks about Southern Maryland auto accident topics.
Does that mean that you only handle accident cases in Southern Maryland, and that visitors from the rest of Maryland should look elsewhere? It’s possible, unless you link to your main site in a way that draws non-Southern-Maryland visitors to the main site where additional practice areas are listed.
If you have additional websites or blogs setup, look at your Google Analytics data to see the bounce rate of your sub-sites, and how much traffic they are sending to your main site. If you bounce rate is high on the sub-sites and these sites aren’t sending much traffic to the main site than they’re probably not accomplishing much.
3) Managing Additional Resources Involves Time and Money- It took you four years to build up the authority of your website. You spend countless numbers of hours posting new content to your website, and between the SEO, content development, and maintenance issues like upgrading the content management version, checking for broken links, spellchecking, monitoring Google Webmaster Tools, etc. you’re already thinking of yourself as a full-time webmaster. So why should managing a second, third, fourth site be any easier? Sure, you can automate some of it, but….
4) For SEO- Quick, Easy, and Automated is NEVER Successful in the Long Run-
If I want a quick and easy website, here’s what I’ll do:
1) Sign up for as $8/month Hostgator or BlueHost account where I can manage multiple domains (hosting, e-mail, WordPress upgrades, etc.) in the same back-end.
2) Wow, I can launch a new website for only $10/domain! Pfft I’ll have 5 of them live in the next two months at this rate.
3) Okay I bought a keyword-friendly domain for $10, I’m going to use SimpleScripts to install WordPress on it.
4) WordPress is installed, let me just find a generic/free theme, or maybe just splurge and spend $35 on one from ThemeForest.
5) Theme is uploaded and installed, and I threw some plugins on there while I’m at.
6) Content- I better start writing, this is going to take a while.
7) Okay I wrote a few main pages of content, even threw some pics up there. Page titles are optimized for keywords, let’s take this baby live and watch the visits pour in. Oh yeah and I’ll link to my main site in the footer to improve it’s SEO, throw some keywords in the anchor text of those links…. bing bang boom.
What you probably didn’t think about:
1) You weren’t about to pay extra for a unique IP address for each website, so they’re all using the same IP. Yes, Google knows this.
2) Google is starting to frown upon sitewide links which all have the same anchor text. Yes, they know how easy all of this was.
3) “Ugh, I don’t remember my logins for all of these sites.”
4) “I have to post content to five different websites, build links to five different website, and maintain five different websites?” Yes, yes you do.
5) “How do I list all five websites on my Google Places profile?” Yeah, good luck with that.
With Google Places, verification is everything. They want to see a number of other websites where your address, phone number, and URL match up and are correct. So, yes, these additional websites may offer that benefit, but with the way things are shifting now that Google Places is becoming increasingly important to the search engine rankings of local and small businesses, what do you think would be a better way to spend your time and money- launching, optimizing, building, and maintaining a number of different websites, or getting listed on those that Google already trusts?
As of right now there’s not one particular answer to this question, but as Google continues to identify what others are doing to cut corners and take the easy way out, one thing seems clear- focusing your time, money, and effort on one main website will likely pay off in the long run.
For those that were on the Google Places webinar with myself and Legal Marketing Maven Laura Lee Sparks, below is the transcript of the call. For those that weren’t on it, feel free to read through the transcript for some good tips on how to improve your Google Places profiles’ visibility and I’ll work on uploading the presentation itself for some visuals.
Welcome everyone. We are recording now and I just want to thank everyone for coming, this is Laura Lee from Legal Marketing Maven and this is our monthly training call where we go over some sort of marketing implementation strategies for you and for your team to implement into your law firm.
Today I’m excited to be joined by George Murphy who’s a good friend of mine and the owner of The Search Ninjas. He’s been doing SEO in Google Places for lawyers for that past three years, five years?
George: Close, a little over five years, yes.
Laura: Right. He’s going to walk us through the most up-to-date changes to Google Places and how you can stay ahead of you competition by taking the proper step to increase your Google Places presence. So welcome George, thank you so much for joining us today.
George: Thanks for having me. It’s an honor and a pleasure and hopefully everybody gets some good information out of it and again thanks for having me. So Laura Lee, do you have any housekeeping stuffs you want to go through or do you want me to go ahead and get us kicked off here?
Laura: I think we’re good George. I think we can go ahead and get started.
George: All right. I’m showing my screen and hopefully everybody should be able to see it. The name of the presentation today is Simple Ways to Increase Your Google Places Presence.
Google Places is becoming increasingly important especially to small local businesses such as lawyers and other small businesses because the Places rankings are actually not only are they being integrated into organic Google rankings but also they’re showing up more and more. So I just kind of want to go through some ways that you can actually improve your Google Places presence, how Google Places is now working along with organic SEO, some of the differences between organic and Google Places and of course the recent tips on how to improve your presence.
This slide – some quick info about me, I’ve worked for a company called Foster Web Marketing. I was the web marketing director for them and what they do is they do web design and SEO for specifically attorneys. I was there for about three years until I just recently founded The Search Ninjas in July of this year. I’ve been in search engine optimization overall for the past over five years.
I founded a local media group here called Maryland Internet Marketing Group where fellow Internet marketers get together and kind of network and get together to share ideas and just to share contact info. It’s always good to network with others in your industry.
I’ve put in here that both of my parents are small business owners and I try to say that whenever I can just because I value the small business. I always kind of know where they’re coming from in terms of marketing, keeping cost and checking things like that.
I used to do freelance journalism for a pretty large national soccer site. I’m a really big soccer fan. I’ve put in here I’m a want to be a handyman and huge Redskins fans. I put those personal stuff in there so you guys know who I am.
Why is Google Places important for lawyers? Like I mentioned earlier, Google Places results almost always show up for just specific search terms such as California personal injury lawyer, Seattle family attorney, pretty much any search term that has a geo-specific city or state related to that search term. Most of the time you’re going to see Google Places come up in one way or the other or recently within the past six to eight months those places profiles they’ve been actually integrated to your organic search results.
So you could probably see if you ever do a search for keywords that you want to rank for, you’ll see it there yourself, your competitors and you’ll see that little red dot that specifies that it’s actually a Google Places profile. You’ll see those along with the organic results now. That’s because now with most of these geo-specific search terms, Google has taken into account both Google Places algorithm factors as well as the old organic algorithm. So it’s pretty important that you keep a pretty firm grasp on what actually is necessary for you to maintain a positive presence in Google Places.
While it may not replace organic search results it’s going to go a long way in terms of beating out some of the standards, some of the fake businesses. Like for example, if you ever try to call a locksmith or you do a Google search for a locksmith, very rarely anymore do you actually find the local lock smith company because there are so many national providers that try to pose as local businesses. It just gets frustrating when you want to actually locate and contact the local business.
The best thing about Google Places is it’s all about verification. It’s looking to weed out the spammers and the fake businesses and others that are just trying to get over on the system and it makes the legitimate small business such as yourselves kind of rise to the top if you take the right stuffs.
The difference between Places and organic like I mentioned just now, Google Places is all about verification. The future of Google Places many of us believe is going to be to give preference to businesses that go out of their way to prove that they are legitimate. In other words, you take the necessary steps and you do more than the people that only do half of what needs to be done. You’re going out of your way to prove to Google Places that you are who you say you are.
Google Places it doesn’t take into account things like website content, how well it’s optimized your keywords for the most part. But now Places results are being integrated into organic search results, it’s pretty important to be able to be aware of the factors that Google Places algorithm does value.
The last thing I’ve put on here and we’ll get to it in a little bit – a citation source is to Google Places what an inbound link is to Google Organic. So if anybody knows anything about organic SEO and if you’re a lawyer I’m sure you’re already familiar with it or you’ve hired somebody to look into it for you or do that for you, you probably know the importance of inbound links and building inbound links. Basically, citation sources are as important to Google Places as inbound links are to organic SEO rankings. We’ll get more into citation sources and how to identify them in a little bit.
Claiming your profile is step 1 and this might be basic for some but I want to make sure we start from square one in terms of what you need to do in terms of maintaining a positive presence. Step 1 is to see what’s out there for your law firm, for your attorney name, whatever it may be.
I did a sample search here for a friend of Laura and I, it’s Vaughan de Kirby who’s in California in San Francisco. Basically, you go to the Maps tab if you’re on the regular Google search and you put in either your firm name or the attorney’s name if it’s a solo practice, whatever it may be because you want to see what’s out there. And the reason is once you see what’s out there, you want to make sure that there are no duplicates and no incorrect information.
Step 2 is identify and suspend any duplicate listings which I’ll talk about in a second and then you want to claim the preferred listing or actually claim if you haven’t already the listing that already exists for your business that’s correct. When I say that, when I talk about claiming a preferred listing, the process for claiming a listing and the process for adding a new listing for the most part is the same.
I didn’t put anything in, in terms of adding a new listing because say 90% of the time there’s already a listing out there. But if there’s none – if you run into a problem where you don’t have a Google Places listing that’s already out there, if you do a Google search for Google Places for business, there’s a website there that you can actually go in and add your business and business information and how you do that I’ll actually get into in the next few slides.
Now a few things I’ve circled right here, there are two different types of listings. There’s an owner verified listing which is a listing that’s already been created, it’s been verified and hopefully optimized by the owner. So, you would have a hard time if you’re somebody else and you don’t have access to this listing, it’ll be very hard for you to claim this because this is telling us the owner has already access to this.
Now, if you see “Edit this place” or if it asks you if you’re the business owner, that means okay, this is an owner verified listing. It’s a listing that was created but for some reason, it wasn’t by the owner and you can actually claim that listing and if it’s a duplicate listing like which is the case here, you can suspend that listing because you don’t want two of the same listings and when I say “listings” you don’t want two of the same address, phone, etc.
If you have multiple addresses, it’s okay to have a listing for each of those addresses but you don’t want three or four listings out there with the same address because then basically the authority is being split between those three or four listings. You want to make sure you focus on one listing for each of your locations.
In terms of claiming and suspending profiles, just a few tips here and this is just based on experience. The first thing is you want to make sure you’re logged in using a Google account where you, your in-house marketing personnel and the other attorneys in your office that you would want to access this or any other contractors, you want to make sure that you’re logged in and claiming or suspending these profiles using that Google account.
That’s because what happens is, I’ve seen in the past where attorneys used certain services like Gmail as a primary email provider and then they’ll share their Google account info so that others can go in and make changes to the Google Places profile but then they have access to everything that’s tied to that Google account. So, just make sure that you think about that. I’ve mentioned earlier if you have multiple locations, only claim or manage one Google…
Laura: Can I [11:57 inaudible] right there on that?
Laura: I’d like to recommend that – especially for small and solo attorneys – set up an email address and it needs to be a Gmail account but set up for an email address that is specific for marketing in your law firm. So maybe it’s called marketing department or something at your lawfirm.com or maybe if on Gmail and you just create a marketing department Gmail account for your firm.
That will allow you to avoid exactly what George was just talking about. It’ll allow you to setup all of these profiles and things of that nature and be able to allow your team members to manage those things for you without any complications of having to go back and reach out email addresses later because that can be a real hassle.
George: I’ll agree with that and just on top of that, what also happens is their additional Google services like a Google profile and some other Google accounts where if you do setup that marketing account on Gmail, don’t just put the primary information as the law firm marketing. Make sure you do try to maintain that as a presence if you’re going to use that for everything because that’s another Google presence that you can optimize and use across the board.
That’s another tip that I’ve seen in the past as – you’ll set up that marketing Gmail account but then for like the Google profile, it just comes up as the whatever law firm marketing department and that’s not what you want to show up. So just make sure if you do that, you actually fill out the information in terms of the name, [13:36 inaudible] email address.
All right, so if you’re claiming the profile and I’ve kind of touched on this, but the goal is to fill out as much information as possible when you claim and optimize your profile. Put in as many videos and photos as you can and I’ll actually get into this in the next slide.
One other tip that I want to share and I’ve seen some promise with this in the past – for the company field where you put the actual company or business name, it used to be okay to optimize this for keywords. Actually, I wrote the report, it’s like a free attorney report for [14:12 inaudible] web I think two or three years ago and in it I was able to say there are some keywords in this company field like if you were to say, “California Personal Injury Law Firm Vaughan de Kirby,” you can’t do that anymore because number one, if Google sees that you’re actually trying to keyword stuff, that business name or title, it’s possible they’re going to suspend that listings.
Two, I’ve mentioned earlier that everything with Google Places is about verification. If you’re telling Google Places that the name of your law firm is California Personal Injury Attorney Vaughan de Kirby, then for you to actually match up on those other citation sources, it has to be the same thing. You want to only use the business name as practices, as it’s on your business license. Don’t get too carried away with keywords on the company field as it is very important.
Here’s a screenshot for another law firm that is a client and just kind of showing some of the fields that you can fill in, the company name, the street address, zip code – one tip and I haven’t done it for this one yet, if you can try to put in the four digit zip code on top of the five digit one. You can go to the USPS website and add that. This may sound ridiculous but as much information as you can provide to Google Places, the more that they know you’re an actual place. So try to go out of your way to provide as much information as you can.
You can add as many photos as you have as you can possibly add, as many videos as you can add. You have up to five additional details you can kind of get more into the keywords here. This is where I try to include some of the practice areas and keywords that I would want the profile to be searched for. There’s some advanced stuff you can do here but I don’t want to get too carried away with advanced stuff so I kind of keep that out for now.
Then once you had all that information, I believe the button is “Submit.” There are few different ways that you can actually verify ownership of that Places’ profile or in other words they say, “Okay, you put in the information but how do we know you’re actually the owner?”
Number one, you can click a button where Google’s automated system will call you and what will happen is a pin number will be displayed on the screen, they call you, you punch in the pin and then they say, “Okay, congratulations. You have access that profile.”
Sometimes a pin number is not an option. 1) It might not always show up on the screen, and 2) a lot of law firms have an automated phone system. So, Google’s automated system can’t call if they won’t reach where you actually get through that ways so that may not be an option. If that’s the case, then option 2 you have to wait for a postcard. Usually it arrives within one to two weeks and that postcard will have the pin number on it.
Once you get that pin number, you log in to the Google Places backend, you put in the pin number and then you actually have ownership for that profile. So, it just kind of depends on the situation. The phone option is the easiest, sometimes postcard’s the only way of doing it.
I mentioned earlier citation sources and I said that a citation site to Google Places is pretty much where the downlink is to organic Google rankings. It’s very important. A citation source is a page on the website that basically Google Places pulls from to verify that your information which is including your business name, address, phone number, URL, etc. is correct. It’s basically what separates you from the spammers.
The more citation sources you have the more that Google Places can say, “Okay, you’re listed on these multiple sites, they obviously have taken the necessary steps, they have a positive presence on the web, they are who they say they are.” So they’re going to give you a little more preference than somebody who has less citation sources.
Links to your website – this is actually a tip and not everybody realize this – links to your website that are listed on some citation sources may also count towards organic rankings or website authority. So in other words, it’s not always either a link or a citation is going towards Google Places or organic but sometimes you can kill two birds with one stone.
If you go out and identify sites that are possible citation sources and get listed on those, they’re not only going to improve your Google Places rankings but they also have a chance of improving your organic and website authority and obviously in many times with them being integrated it’s the same thing but it’s still two completely different algorithms. So in a lot of cases, by getting listed on these citation sources you’re killing two birds with one stone.
I also put in here recently and this is as recent as late July. Google made a change where you can no longer see your competitor citation sources. You used to be able to go into your competitor, look at their Places page and there’s a little section that said more about this business and it listed a number of different sites where basically the sites were being used to verify that your competitor’s information is correct. On your competitor’s Places profile, you’re no longer able to see that. There are still some ways around this, I’ll kind of show you some tips at the end of this on how you can see what citation sources your competitors are kind of capitalizing on and how you can get listed on those as well.
Facts about citation sources – like I mentioned, they’re similar to backlinks but there’s no real way of telling what citation sources will count towards your Google Places rankings. A lot of times you’ll say, “I just identified that a competitor’s getting juice,” which is pretty much a buzz word for some benefit from one citation source. Let’s say, “I see that my competitor’s getting a lot of juice from their Avvo profile.” But three months later you’ve filled out your Avvo profile and you still got your SuperPages listing or whatever, you’re listed on that source but you don’t seem to be getting anything from it by putting that citation source into the tools that I’m going to show you later.
That’s common and that’s very common also with the organic SEO side of things. You can do a backlink analysis for a competitor and you can see, “It looks like they’re getting a lot of benefit from a DMOZ listing or from Yahoo directory list,” and then you go and get listed. That listing might not actually be indexed in Google system so there’s not really a way of you getting around that other than sometimes you can utilize some of your blogs, your book sites, some of your other internal resources.
Just a quick tip, you can actually if you know that those listings are out there, you could build links to those other listings to kind of get them in the pipeline in terms of pages that Google crawls. This is just a quick tip and I don’t want to just recommend any sort of strategy of you doing this but it is possible that if you built links to some of those listings, you see that you’re not currently getting anything from it. Once you build a link or two or however many to those listings, there’s a better chance of Google actually recognizing those. On the organic side of things and in terms of Google Places, there’s also a reason to believe that that’s the same. So, that’s just a quick tip.
All right, we’re getting to probably what everybody wants to know. What are some common citations sources especially for lawyers. The sources listed on the left, I’m going to get into and later slides except for Facebook business page because I didn’t have really much to say about that. But sources on the right, I’m not really going to get into them. I’m going to generalize and give you some tips on these.
But there are sites like Localeze, Universal Business Listings and some other aggregators that automatically syndicate your information to other trusted citation sources and I’ll explain in a second. Your Avvo profile, if you don’t have a presence on Avvo, you absolutely want to kind of jump on that. It’s very possible that your website and blogs are a very trusted citation source if you utilize them correctly. I’m going to tell you how you can do that in a second.
Any video sites that you might submit to – YouTube, Dailymotion, any other video sites that are out there that you might use. I’ll show you the way to actually turn in those into citation sources. If you submit press releases or articles, any content sites, there are ways to optimize those for Google Places.
I already mentioned your Facebook business page. The main thing I’ll mention here because I won’t mention it in later slides. Make sure your correct address, correct phone number, correct firm name are listed on your Facebook business page.
Lawyer directory sites – HG, Nolo, Justia, there’s a free cornell.edu directory. Any lawyer directory site that you’re aware of that allows you to list your address and phone number, your firm name – those are possible citation sources, Yellow Pages, Superpages, etc., any membership sites like Better Business Bureau. If you’re a member of any local Chamber of Commerce, any trial board, American Trial Association or any regional or local trial boards.
Lawyer award sites sometimes some of these are allow you to put in your firm information like your address and phone number. Super Lawyers, MartinDale, [23:45 inaudible], American Association of Justice – some of these allow you to actually put in your information. So, if you are a member of any of those award sites the goal is – well I’ll kind of touch on that in later slides.
And any other directory sites, the Yahoo directory which offers a lot of authority for organic rankings. DMOZ, if you’re lucky to get a listing on there, [24:08 inaudible] etc. That’s more on the organic SEO side of things so I won’t talk too much about that.
All right, like I mentioned earlier this is from a site, GetListed.org and I just took a couple of screen shots here. Universal Business Listing and Localeze both are kind of those data aggregators where you go in, you sign up, you put in all of your information and they kind of syndicate it out to a number of different citation sources in their network and I won’t get into those. If you want to know who they actually syndicate to you can contact them.
Then there are a few more listed here, Infogroup, Citysearch which is pretty important in terms of reviews. I recommend everybody maintains a presence on Citysearch if possible. Superpages and InsiderPages, some other trusted citation sources.
In terms of Avvo and I’m also going to touch on ratings here which I’m sure will get some questions about – ratings in terms of how a Google Places profile ranks has becoming increasingly important. It wasn’t as big of a factor about a year and a half, two years ago but how many positive ratings a Google Places profile actually has, it’s actually a big factor and the more positive reviews you have the better chance that you’re going to rank well and outperform your competition.
But Google Places does pull from third party citation sites for reviews such as Avvo, SuperPages, Insider Pages, Citysearch. If you’ve seen your competitors Google Places profiles, before I’ve seen this come up, publicly they said they stopped pulling from Yelp but it doesn’t mean that it’s not still a trusted citation source and you want to maintain your presence on Yelp if you can.
But if you have the ability to promote any other possible sites like Avvo or SuperPages, InsiderPages, Citysearch to your past clients or to anybody that might be able to leave a review for you, the question is always going to come up and I always get this question, “Why can’t it just be one resource? Do I really expect my clients to go post reviews on InsiderPages and Google Places and Citysearch.”
No, you don’t. You want Google Places to be if you only had one choice, send them to your Google Places profile and make sure they post reviews on that. But every once in a while, you have a client that has been on SuperPages before or find you on Citysearch. Obviously, you want to hope that they post those positive reviews without you having to encourage them but just FYI, Google Places does pull reviews from sites like Avvo which is very important.
If I had to prioritize, I put Avvo on the top because they come up for so many different searches. If any of the other past clients happen to be on these pages, they do pull from those as of now. There’s possibility of just being centralized to Google Places and this is a really touch subject because from a marketing standpoint, you want to try to centralize everything.
Laura: I want to just jump in on this and basically, this is where your clients are going and leaving online testimonials for you. And I know for our campaign last month that we did for our done-for-you clients, we really focused on this as having a system in place where it happens automatically at the conclusion of whatever work your doing that the client gets a systemized process of “hey, can you go here and leave a testimonial?”
One of the recommendations I made was to secure a domain like recommend nastier, just something catchy that you can register a domain. The way you could do this is you could change where that domain is being redirected so that at different points of the year, you’re directing them to either Avvo or to Google Places or to CitySearch just by changing where that link gets redirected to.
George: I like that idea a lot. If you have a SuperPages profile out there that doesn’t have any reviews then you can kind of redirect it to that.
Laura: Exactly. We place with a monitor on it and use it. And not wait to what have to be updating your marketing material, updating your system, you would just have to have somebody looking at – where am I with that system on those sites and where do I need some more and make sure that you’re directing people there?
George: Yes, I really like that idea because the other option is you redirect them to either page on your site or like a squeeze page that lists all these different services and then the client gets confused because there are so many options. So you just take it into your hands in terms of where you redirect them to. I like that idea a lot.
Laura: Now you’re in control of – you’re getting where you need them.
George: Definitely. In terms of internal resources that you actually have control of, your website, if you have more than one website, your blogs, book sites, any other sites that you actually manage – these can be very valuable citation sources. Just a few tips in terms of what you need to make sure your websites and blogs and other sites contain.
First thing you want to make sure your firm name, the address and phone number is on a site-wide footer of your website or blog. Make sure it’s crawlable, it shouldn’t be an image because obviously a search engine spider can’t crawl an image. It shouldn’t be anything too crazy just to make sure it can be crawled by the search engine spiders.
Also make sure it’s complete, don’t leave out any. If you have a suite number, don’t leave that out. If you’re an LLC, don’t leave that out. Exactly how it appears on your Google Places profile is how you want everything to appear. It’s all about making sure everything is constant and verified. So, that’s one tip.
Make sure your address and everything else is listed. If you have a Contact Us page, if you have a Directions page, same thing – make sure it’s crawlable, make sure it’s complete. You might automatically assume you’ve already done that. You have no idea how many times I’ve said this and somebody goes back and say, “Wow, I was missing the suite number,” or “I didn’t have my phone number,” or “The incorrect phone number is on there.”
It’s always good to double check especially on your internal resources that you have control over. Make sure you verify that all this is crawlable, that it’s complete and that it’s correct. Make sure you do this for like I said, any internal resources that you have – if you have a book site, if you have just a blog that’s just been sitting around, if you haven’t posted any content to it in a couple of years. Just make sure you go out there and get that on there because all it can do is help you.
Video sites – if you syndicate video to YouTube or Dailymotion or other video sites, this is another opportunity. Make sure your firm name the address, the phone number and if possible your URL, make sure that’s actually in the description of the video.
I’ve done competitive analysis for multiple attorneys where I’ve gone out and noticed that they’re actually getting some authority from YouTube as a citation source just because they included their name, address and phone number in the description of that video. So, make sure if you’re using two mobile or – I forget the other one that does that poll blast – make sure you put in the information in those descriptions or if you do it manually, just automatically put it in there and make sure it’s accurate, complete, the actual address, firm name as it appears on your Google Places profile.
Another tip real quick and this is from the organic side of things. If you do YouTube videos, the link coming from your YouTube channel does count towards your organic rankings and the organic algorithm. So make sure if you have a YouTube video, A) that everything is filled out and, B) that you have a link coming from your YouTube channel. If you submit content to article sites or if you do press releases and submit those to other sites, this is another way that you can get your business information out there to make it a trusted resource for citations.
The old school way of thinking if you did SEO a couple of years ago was I’ll write a PR real quick or piece of content, throw out to Ezine Articles or Article Trader or whatever it might be and get a website. I can get a link out of it which is going to make me number one on Google and blah, blah, blah. Well, the way that things are changing it’s not like that anymore.
Now, it’s the new school way of thinking. If I write a PR, I submit a piece of content to an article directory, I can actually throw my firm name, address and phone number on there as well and A) I can get a citation of a link out of it. But B) who knows, they might call me or contact me straight from that article.
So always make sure that your contact info, your firm name – this might sound basic and “of course, I’m doing that,” but a lot of times lawyers and other small businesses are so focused on getting that link and just improving their search engine rankings so if they’re not including the basic stuff like contact info and firm name, make sure you’re doing that on these sites as well.
For the directory sites, the membership sites, everything else that I listed on the right-hand side, the main things you need to know are: you need to know what’s out there and you need to know that what’s out there is accurate. You might have hired an SEO company three years ago to build links and it got you listed on a bunch of different directories but maybe you’ve moved offices and the old addresses are still listed or maybe they misspelled it or just put the complete incorrect information out there.
You need to know that what’s out there is accurate. If it’s not accurate, you need to go find that information and correct it. If you have an address or phone number or a business name that you found that was incorrect on another site, do a Google search for that. If you found an incorrect phone number, do a Google search for that phone number to see if there are any other sites that include that incorrect information. Try to go in there and correct it because that’s a possible Google Places citation that you might not be getting use from.
Another example is for the award sites and the membership sites. You might not know that you were able to actually go in and include a link to your website. So just actually seeing what’s out there and finding that stuff and make sure that your optimizing these sites and profiles is really important.
Also in terms of knowing what’s out there like I said, if you’ve seen an incorrect phone number, firm name, do a Google search and make sure you put it in quotes. Like if you knew that the firm name was misspelled one way, put the firm name in quotes to see if it was misspelled another way on another site because it might have been submitted by [35:32 inaudible] submitter where it’s misspelled on a hundred different sites. If you’ve moved like I said, Google your old address and phone number.
Just make sure you try to find what’s out there and correct it. The goal for everything when it comes to Google Places is everything matches up, everything is verified, everything is constant across the board.
Here’s a tip on how you can identify additional citation sources. There’s a tool called the Whitespark Citation Finder. It’s pretty much from what I found the best way of doing what’s called cherry picking on your competitor’s citations.
So basically, what you do is you do this Google search, you sign up for their tool and you put in a keyword. That keyword actually goes out and crawls all of the citation sources from Google Places profiles that actually rank for that particular keyword and it will basically display all of the different sites that are being listed as possible citation sources – HotFrog, Yellow Pages, Switchboard, Lookup a Lawyer, Yellow Bot. A lot of these are free. A lot of these are paid directories but the majority of these are probably free and it just takes time to go in and list your site on these citation sources.
One other quick tip, once you go to get listed on some of these, make sure you find out if you’re already listed on these. I didn’t mention that. And if possible that you can just edit the existing listing. So you always want to make sure if you do find a new possible citation source that you make sure you’re already listed on there.
Laura Lee had asked me before the call if I had a free e-book or something that I can offer to everybody just to stay in contact with everyone. I had one written, I’m not super impressed with this, I’m still making some changes to it. But I did want to share a possible really cool trick that I’ve just learned about yesterday actually. I’m 99% sure your competitors don’t know about this yet.
You can go to a restaurant, you can be online with your iPhone or iPad or Droid and actually just leave a quick review about a restaurant that you were just at. If you take the right steps, this can actually be trusted not only as a citation source but as a citation source that’s within Google system which is going to be even more trusted. So, I don’t want to give away the house here on a free webinar I just put in here.
If you want to e-mail me, it’s [email protected] and I’ll share this trick with you. It’s on the house. Like I said, just expect when I send you my newsletter once in a while and I just wanted to share a non-basic but advanced tip – we’re all marketers here, I want to keep in touch with everybody on the call. So trust me, when I say 99% sure, I’m almost 100% sure that your competitors aren’t doing this yet so it’s definitely going to be a good trick to know.
Laura: George’s newsletter is definitely one you want to get on because he does share great tips and information like he shared with us today here on this call. So, follow up with him and get that tip and get on his newsletter.
George: Thank you Laura. It’s not going to be a sales pitch, it’s just an informative newsletter.
Laura: This you aim as a favor to me today guys. As I promised, it’s not a sales pitch although he does do optimization for Google Places. So if that’s something you’re interested in, feel free to reach out to him and discuss what that might look like.
Wow, this is a lot of great information. As always, I’d like to open up the call for questions. I see that everybody online is muted. You can raise your hand, there’s a little hand in your webinar box on the left-hand side that will allow you to raise your hand if you have a question or you can simply type your question into the question box. George is happy to answer any questions that you might have.
George, I had a question. This came up to me through email. Somebody emailed me that – how do you delete? If you have more than one listing and you have one that’s optimized and you have another one there with the wrong address and everything else, how do you get rid of that one? I know you touched on it briefly.
George: I did and I thought I put a screenshot of how to do that on here but I must have left it out. Basically, what happens is when you click on “Edit this place or business owner” and you go to actually claim it, you can actually click a little radio box that says, “Suspend as listing” and it will ask you to go through the same verification process. Basically, once you verified that you’re a real person then you can take access to that.
But basically what happens is if it’s already existing information like in this example for Vaughan’s listing. They would have to call you at this phone number but that might not be the right phone number and then there’s no address.
So, that’s kind of a touchy subject with Google Places right now. If you’re the actual owner of that listing and you can’t be reached through that phone number and you can’t have a postcard sent to your address, you can actually file something into Google Places Help Forum and they’ll walk you through that. But that’s a touchy subject right now and it has come up in the past.
So, hopefully that offers some insight. If you run into that problem, it’s probably more of an advanced issue and I can help you out with that but that doesn’t come up a whole lot. It does come up once in a while.
Laura: Particularly how long does it take for something to be removed like that?
George: You can suspend it right away. If they call you and you verify that you can take ownership of that listing, you can literally hit that checkbox and it will technically be suspended. It might still show up in searches for the next day or two but it’s not actually a real listing anymore that you suspended it. I think it might actually recently have been turned to instant but there’s a chance that it might still be indexed for a day or two. But you can suspend it right away if you do the phone number.
Laura: Another question just came in. It’s Tim Winters and he’d like to know, how do you set the default photo on your Places page?
George: Yes, there’s a field for it. Let me see if I can actually pull up a listing real quick that I can show you that has multiple photos that you can choose. Because I’m logged in using another Google account, I’m not sure that I have access to one. Let me double check real quick and I’ll show you. I’m assuming that the question from Tim is he has an image but he wants to change to default image.
Laura: Yes, there are several images that are loaded and he wants to change the one that is the default.
George: Yes, let me see if I can actually show this. I just want to see if I have an access to a listing that has multiple images here. I don’t. If I log out I’m going to lose some other info and might actually have to call back in so why don’t we do this, there’s a way of doing it and I can show it, I just don’t have access to that login right now.
Tim, if you want to email me I can give you some info on how to do that. I just can’t show it right now because I don’t have access to a profile that I can do it for if that makes sense.
Laura: Right. He said no problem, he’ll send you an email. Did you get email address, Tim? George, you want to go back to that slide with your email address so everybody can be sure to have that?
George: Sure, it’s just [email protected] and here’s the slide again. I tried to make it pretty easy to remember.
Laura: Great. All right, anyone else have any questions for George today? I’ve really gotten clear about those citations. I didn’t understand what the citation thing was all about. So, this was really very helpful for me.
George: They’re really important and anybody at once verification, a lot of times I can sit up here and say, “Hey, this is what you need to do. This is what’s important.” Any time you need verification, I would do a Google search for Google Places ranking factors.
A gentleman by the name of David Mihm has published an actual report, this is what’s actually important when it comes to your Google Places rankings. And you’ll see how important the citation listings are.
That will just back up what I’ve been saying, I always try to offer some additional resources to show that I’m not just saying it to say it. So, if you guys want to check that out, do a Google search for Google Places ranking factors. That’s actually a really good blog post that you can check out.
Laura: Great, great. All right, it looks like we’ve got all of our questions up. We’ve got another one. What about the Bing and Yahoo local page setup? Are those important to have at Google Places?
George: It is important actually because believe it or not, I’ve seen it since those local resources are actually taken into account by Google. I tried to focus on Google Places here but it is also important that you maintain a presence on Bing and Yahoo and Yelp which is outside of that. But I do think that there is value in terms of Google Places and getting listed on Bing and obviously Bing’s popularity especially with local searches are more and more popular. The goal is presence everywhere if you can but I’m absolutely recommending on…
Laura: You’re kind of breaking up, George.
George: I think I go too many cut but I would definitely recommend looking into Bing and Yahoo.
Laura: Okay. We always recommend that our clients get setup on those local profiles. Some people still use Yahoo. There are a lot of people that use Yahoo as their Home page and things like that especially if they’re not real internet savvy, a lot of times that will be the default browser that they’re going to search in. So, that’s one of the reasons we tell clients to do that. Especially if you’re an estate planning client and your target market is more of an older generation, they may not be as tech savvy.
Okay, I think we’re going to wrap up then. I thank you so much for taking time today, George to be here with us and share this information with the lawyers that we work with. Again everybody, I really encourage you to email George. I’m going to email George and find out about the review thing and how that all work. Also get on his newsletter list, he shares a lot of great information there.
He’ll keep you up-to-date on this stuff, it’s really important. Like he shared at the beginning of the call, he wrote an e-book about this just a few years ago and already that has changed. George, I remember when we were telling people stuff that name with keywords. Then boom, two years later we were getting phone calls, “Hey, my Google Places account is suspended.”
George: Yes, just in July I started writing this e-book I say, “Go to your competitor’s Google Places profile to see the citation sources,” and they don’t even list them anymore. So, it’s constantly changing.
Laura: Exactly. If you don’t have a marketing team that you’re outsourcing this kind of stuff to, then you need to be sure that you’re staying abreast with making sure that you know what’s changing out there so that you can update things for your firm. Those are your options there. Either you have someone on your team that is making sure that they’re up-to-date on the most up-to-date information or you’re making sure that you’re doing it yourself.
That’s why we do these calls like we do to bring this information to you. But of course I can’t have George every month to come and tell us what’s new and updated. So get on his newsletter and get better information.
George: I just wanted to add, I’m sure that some of your people are going to listen to this later and I’ll be sure to look out for emails later down the road because I don’t think everybody would join us live, so FYI if you’re listening to a recording of this, I’ll be sure to respond to you if you send me an email later on.
Laura: Absolutely. Thank you so much. All right, we’re going to wrap up then and I thank everyone for being here live. I am going to try and get this recording out to everyone who registered. I’m thinking about sending this out to my whole list. This is really great information, George. I really appreciate you being here and sharing it.
George: Thanks to everybody for listening and thanks for having me. It was a pleasure.
Laura: All right, have a great afternoon everyone. Bye-bye now.
This past Friday, a friend came to me exclaiming “My sales are down! My sales are down!” A recognized author, this person was used to receiving hundreds of book orders per month via his website. In April of this year, he saw sharp drop in his sales. Believing it was a seasonal fluke, he didn’t think much of it. But as July ended, he was alarmed that his sales had remained abnormally low. So he called me in to look at his web analytics and try and find the cause.
Google Analytics has a powerful feature called Advanced Segments. By setting specific criteria, you can filter out all unwanted data and look only at information that matters. In this instance, I created several segments. The first was a filter that only showed website visits where the page selling the book was viewed. The second and third filters were ones that divided those visits by medium (pay per click advertising and organic/referral traffic). I ran a report showing activity from May 2010 through July 2011 and charted the following data:
Optimization is key to pay-per-click success. That is, you should be constantly improving your ad campaigns to generate more qualified leads at a lower cost per lead. One tactic to invest in is ad split-testing.
An advertising split-test is a scientific method by which you evenly display two different ads to a similarly targeted audience. The goal is to see which ad produces better results. The ads are in rotation – so every time a search is conducted on Google, a different ad displays. Ad A, ad B, ad A, ad B, ad A, ad B… and so forth. Therefore, if 1,000 individuals are exposed to your advertising, half will see ad A and half will see ad B.
After data has been tracked (I like to wait for around 30 clicks per ad to be certain of statistical significance), it’s time to analyze. But exactly what should you look for?
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